By Diomedes | Robert O'Reilly | 27 Apr 2023




We did have two other occasional visitors, my old friends. The first, Chuck, now living in Santa Cruz, would drop by at rare times and his visits would usually last about five minutes, because he was always in a miserable mood, complaining about his empty life. I’d promptly tell him to leave and only come back when he was in a pleasant, friendly frame of mind.

Sanita didn’t like him at all. Serenity was our order of the day, so he wasn’t welcome and I had no qualms telling him so. He’d gotten worse since his previous years in Berkeley. I suppose advancing age and no prospects of any kind and growing loneliness were taking their toll. The loss of the poker games and his Berkeley friends didn’t help. But that was all his doing. I felt no pity, or obligation to help. I’d done more than my share already for almost two decades, and ten times more than anyone else.

Sometime in February Hiram returned from a year-long vacation in Australia. He’d made a heap of money working for Goodrich, becoming their top computer pro over seven years. They flew him to all their sites, first in the U.S. then to Europe and paid him well for his expertise. But he finally tired of the job and with his savings, being single and living a bohemian still he simply packed up (probably a backpack held all his possessions), flew to Australia, bought a used Volvo there and simply drove around, to every point on the map. He even paid the way for his mother and sister to visit him for a few months.

Now he’d returned and the first thing he did was look me up. I don’t know if he was totally broke, or just tight with what little he had left, but when he saw our camper parked outside, he asked us if he could crash there till he found his own place. We happily agreed. He could sleep there and use our bathroom and for brief moments, our kitchen. He mostly ate simple foods like sandwiches, being no cook. What we thought would be a few weeks lasted over a month, until he found a job with a small computer development firm in town and his first paychecks. Soon he had a bungalow near Tim’s place. Soon after that he bought another used Volvo.

But his stay was pleasant for the three of us, as he was careful not to intrude too much and was always friendly and polite with Sanita, full of compliments and thanks, eating with us when Sanita would occasionally cook a big meal, and he would liven up the table with his travel stories.

His career in Santa Cruz bloomed quickly, from one company to the next with ever higher pay. Then he went back to the university and did ground-breaking research on genomes and gene splicing, becoming famous as time went on. He married late in life, late forties I think, and adopted children. His work there has many accolades on the internet. He’s an international scientist now with a diplomatic passport to attend seminars around the globe.

Since Sanita was still fine with her pregnancy which her doctor monitored with a blood test every two weeks, I took a six-day break from her, driving with Hiram to Bellingham to visit Ron D., long since separated from Barbara, now dating a Japanese beauty. It was a pleasant trip and Hiram and I talked non-stop the entire ride, we had so many common interests and ideas.

The timing of this escapade even worked out for Sanita. The day after we left Sanita took in a battered woman and her little girl. Louie brought them over. Our place was the one hide-out where her violent husband, another pot growing Hungarian, couldn’t possibly find her. I met him once. He reminded me of Sanita’s Argentinian bear, bearded and huge. The two women became good friends and it probably made the poor woman feel more comfortable to be in the company of another woman, with no men around. She stayed a week until she had plans set for a move far away, while her husband was searching the Bay area maniacally for her, day and night. I came home when she was feeling a little better, the day before she left.

Once again, whenever Louie showed up in our lives, something crazy or life changing was afoot. He’d introduced me to my last two partners, to my wife, to Steve L. and Consuelo, Brian from L.A., helped me send John Seebach to Europe when he needed it. And now this, saving another woman from abuse. He somehow knew her husband who was a recluse pot grower in the hills.

How did he know these people? I met him perhaps fifteen times in my life. He didn’t read books and was most unlike me. Even conversations with him were awkward. Yet we had some close, inexplicable bond. He was always an enigma to me, unfathomable, and always altering the course of my own and other peoples destinies.

One day in late May I drove Sanita to her checkup and had some disconcerting news. The blood work that had just come back showed a slow rise in the antibody, this ‘little e’ factor, beginning to rise in her blood. It was an antigen that would start attacking the baby’s blood when it rose to a high enough level, with fatal results. It was an extremely rare antigen and the doctor told us that in most women it didn’t have time to grow to a harmful level in their first pregnancy. And if they had it, a second pregnancy was strongly discouraged.

But Sanita had received a wrong blood transfusion years earlier that activated the growth of this ‘little e’ factor, which stayed forever in the blood and only grew stronger in the presence of a different type of blood. Now Will had this different type of blood and it was only a matter of time before her antibodies would be numerous enough and attack his blood. That’s why her case was so rare, one in ten million the doctor told us, and that’s why he could get it classified as a study, all expenses paid. I doubt that most doctors would have even caught this rare pathogen and our baby would have died mysteriously in the eighth month of pregnancy. But with this physician we lucked out, another one in a thousand chance.

Now he insisted the blood tests be done every week because of the nature of this ‘little e’ which was to start multiplying exponentially once it met its foe. The connection between the embryo’s blood and the mother’s was slow to form. So in the first months he was safe, an island. But as he developed the pathways opened up between the two. Sure enough the next week it had risen more, not up to dangerous levels yet but concerning. The next week again. But the week after it skyrocketed and action had to be taken immediately. I remember I was with Hiram that afternoon when the good doctor called with the news. Sanita was in his office but he had to make calls and consult and decide what to do.

He told me to stay put and he’d call me back in an hour. That was the most nerve-wracking hour I ever spent, pacing the floor, glad Hiram was with me for someone to talk to. The call came back and they were sending her to Stamford to induce labor, though the fetus was only seven and three-quarters months old and the lungs barely developed. I rushed to the hospital, Consuelo with me. They tried doses of Pitocin for a day to induce labor but that didn’t work so they performed a Caesarian the next afternoon. We drove home and back again the next day.

The doctors put her out mid-afternoon and performed the operation. Around seven they brought the baby out for a minute for us to see. He seemed ridiculously small and frail and had green tinted skin, but alive and ready for an incubator. We stayed another hour to look through the glass and his plastic tent bed. I asked one doctor how Sanita was. He said she’d be fine but was out like a light and would remain so until morning.

But here’s where I made a mistake I can’t forget. Consuelo and I were both tired, getting little sleep from all the worry the night before. So I told her I’d drive her home and get a few hours sleep and be back by six a.m., to greet Sanita. But Sanita woke up in the middle of the night, in the dark, scared and crying out my name several times, not knowing what had happened or where she was. The nurses put her back to sleep with tranquilizers but this is something I’ll always regret, not staying at her bedside in her hours of need, as she always did for me later on.

From then on I stayed with her daily, while Willie progressed slowly in his incubator. She was able to come home after two days, Willie after four. He was yellow, jaundiced and his lungs not fully grown, which required delicate care, which Sanita provided, while I managed of all her needs.

By a strange coincidence I had invited Bill Beestra to visit for three days a week before Sanita was rushed to the hospital. We had a fine time, the three of us, as Sanita liked Bill as he was always so polite and considerate. In other words he could guess what you might like and get it for you before you even asked. When I named my son Will, after my father, he thought it was in his honor. I never undeceived him of this imagined compliment.

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B.A. in Latin and Greek from U.C. Berkley. Writer, Blogger and retired Electrician.

Robert O'Reilly
Robert O'Reilly

I am educated in the Western Classical Tradition, B.A. from U.C. Berkeley in Latin and Greek, English major, one year at U. of Toronto, studied under Alain Renoir and Northrop Frye, read most classics full time for many years after university in French, English, Latin and Greek to the modern day. I am interested in the near future of technology, what changes it imposes upon our heritage and character as humans. Short stories and Essays are my medium.

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